Every serious lifter knows that if you want to get huge, you’ve got do a mix of compound and isolation exercises. However, when it comes to glute training, most bodybuilders don’t do any serious isolation work because they probably don’t know how to.
This article will show you what we at Performance U - Hybrid Strength & Conditioning, have found to be the most effective glute targeted exercises for adding more mass to your ass!
The Need For Isolation
When I work with bodybuilders, I always ask, “What are your weaker areas that you have a difficult time developing?” In their answer, they almost always mention they’re need for better glutes.
I then ask, “What are you doing for your glutes?” The normal reply is something like, “I do deadlifts, squats, lunges and (maybe) the donkey kick machine.”
When I get this answer, I tell them it’s no wonder they have a hard time developing their glutes because they don’t do much (if anything at all) to directly target them.
Think about it! If you wanted to build massive arms, you wouldn’t just rely on compound pushing and pulling exercises. You’d certainly do lots of isolation arm work like biceps curls and triceps extensions. Heck, some bodybuilders even have a specific “arm day!”
Here’s another example:
Although our shoulders get worked each time we perform a chest or back oriented exercise, we know these exercise alone are not enough to stimulate our shoulders to grow bigger. That’s is why bodybuilders also dedicate a specific training day to target their shoulders.
Interestingly enough, many serious lifters aren’t willing to apply this same logic to their glutes. Instead, they just keep performing compound exercises like deadlifts, squats, lunges, etc., hoping for the best because that’s what tradition dictates.
At Performance U, we don’t limit ourselves to tradition. Instead, we’re powered by principles and driven by results! That’s precisely why we train the glutes in the same way we train every other muscle group in the body. To help our bodybuilders build bigger & stronger glutes, we use BOTH compound and isolation exercises.
Squats and Deadlifts Are Great But…
In this article, I’m not going to cover the glute-building benefits of the exercises you’re already doing like deep squats, deadlifts, good-mornings, reverse-hypers, lunges, etc., because I value your time and don’t want to waste it by telling you about the same old stuff you already know.
Below is a list of our favorite glute exercises (along with accompanying videos!) you’re probably not using. Many hit the glutes from a shortened position, which provides a unique training stimulus that you don’t get from the traditional moves. Exercises like deadlifts and lunges hit the glutes the hardest at the bottom position when the glutes are lengthened. But, when you stand up and extend your hips (i.e. shorten your glutes), the load on the glutes isn’t much.
I also provide you with a sample glute-building program that’ll show you how to apply these new exercises and help you put more mass on your ass!
The 7 Top Glute Mass-Building Exercises You’re Probably Not Using
Shoulder-Elevated Barbell Hip Thrust
I can’t talk about glute training without mentioning my great friend Bret “the Glute Guy” Contreras. Bret is responsible for popularizing the barbell hip thrust exercise, he’s written a 600+ page must-read book on glute training and he’s arguably done more to modernize our knowledge of the subject than anyone walking the earth!
Here’s Bret showing you how to properly perform his barbell hip thrust exercise.
Here’s Bret showing off his awesome glute strength on this move!
Barbell Glute Bridge
When we want to focus a little less on the range of motion and more on getting in some heavy glute-targeted work, we get our bodybuilders down on the floor and we hammer out a few sets of these bad boys.
Shoulder-Elevated One-Leg Hip Thrust
Most of us have a stronger (and weaker) side. The nice thing about single-leg work is that you can spend a bit more time on training up your weak, less-developed side for better symmetry.
Double Bench Hip Thrust
This exercise can be done using one or two legs, but doing it with only one leg is tougher.
You can’t use big loads with this exercise, but once you try it, you won’t feel the need to as the increased range of motion created by using the two benches gives you lots of great glute work.
Anterior Leaning Lunges
In a recent study titled “Trunk Position Influences the Kinematics,” kinetics, and muscle activity of the lead lower extremity during the forward lunge exercise, researchers found that performing a lunge with a forward (anterior) trunk lean increased the recruitment of the hip extensors (i.e. glutes and hamstrings). In contrast, they found that performing a forward lunge with an up-right trunk posture (as in the traditional style) did not alter activation of the lower extremity musculature.
We’ve also found the anterior leaning lunge variation to be more knee-friendly than upright torso lunges. Our lifters with bad knees who experience pain when performing traditional lunges (with an upright torso), can usually do anterior lunges pain-free because the stress is transferred away from the knee joints and placed more on the hips.
Warning: Due to the intense eccentric loading of this exercise, your glutes may be very sore on the first few workouts!
Rear-Foot Elevated Leaning Squats
Some people call these “Bulgarian split squats.” Whatever you decide to call them, we’ve found they’re a great glute-builder if you add in a slight forward lean.
Note: We love using the Sorinex Single Leg Squat Stand for these since it allows us to quickly adjust the height of the rear leg to fit athletes of any size.
Single-Leg RDLs (with Dumbbell and Cables)
While single leg RDLs have become a popular exercise in recent years, most lifters only do them with dumbbells, which is fine. However, using cables for this move can hit your glutes in a different manner than dumbbells due to differing load vectors.
Here’s a quick biomechanics lesson: The point of maximal loading (when the weight is the heaviest because the lever arm is at it’s longest) when doing RDLs is when your torso is at 90 degrees from where the resistance is coming from. Keep this in mind when reading on.
Single-Leg Dumbbell RDLs load the glutes most in the bottom ranges of the exercise, but put almost zero load on the glute at the top, when you’re standing tall.
Single-Leg Low Cable RDLs load the glutes most in the middle ranges of the lift, which provides a different training stimulus than when using dumbbells.
Single-Leg Mid-level Cable RDLs load the glutes mostly at the top ranges of the exercise when you’re standing tall (the point where dumbbells are least effective).
Using all three of these Single Leg RDL variations can help give you what I call “full spectrum glute strength.” Here’s the Glute Triple Threat Protocol, which we developed to incorporate all three single leg RDL versions in one giant set in order to provide a more well-rounded full spectrum glute workout that’ll give you an insane pump.
Bonus Glute Exercise: Super-Dogs
I said I’d give you our top seven glute exercises, but I don’t think you’ll complain if I over deliver and hit you with eight! The super-dog exercise is a move which we developed to not only test our clients’ end-range glute strength, but also to train and improve end-range hip extension strength.
We actually like to use bent-leg super-dogs for really glute-focused work in our active warms-ups on leg/glute days. Simply flex your knee to around 90 degrees of the lifting leg, instead of keeping it straight as shown in the video.
We also like to use either the straight or bent-leg super-dog as a glute burn-out for high-rep sets of 30-75 per side at the end of a comprehensive glute workout.
Sample Glute-Building Workout For More Mass
Exercises like deep squats, deadlifts, dumbbell/barbell RDLs, anterior leaning lunges, leaning rear-foot elevated split squats, etc., maximally hit the glutes from a lengthened position. On the other hand, exercise like hip thrusts, hip bridges, super-dogs, cable RDLs, back extension and reverse hypers, etc., hit the glutes when they’re in a shortened (contracted) position.
We’ve found the most effective glute mass building workouts incorporate BOTH types of exercises. Here’s how’d we put a lower-body workout together for someone focusing on adding more mass to their ass, without losing hard-earned muscle in their legs.
Note: We advise training glutes twice per week to increase volume to that area in order to stimulate faster muscle growth!
Day 1: Quads/Glutes/Calves
1. Barbell Squats or Leg Press (4-5 sets x 6-10 reps)
2. Leg Extensions (3-4 sets x 8-12 reps)
3. One Leg Rear Foot Elevated Anterior Lean Squats (3 sets x 8-12 reps per leg)
4a. Two Leg Barbell Hip Thrusts or Hip Bridges (3 sets of x 10-15 reps)
4b. Seated or Standing Calf Raises (3 sets of x 10-15 reps)
5. Super-Dogs (1x 50 reps per side)
Day 2: Glutes/Hamstrings/Calves
1. Anterior Lunges with Dumbbells (3 sets x 8-10 reps per leg)
2. Good Mornings (3-4 sets x 8-12 reps)
3. Glute Triple Threat Protocol (2 sets x 8-10 reps of each RDL version)
4a. One Leg Double bench Hip Thrust (3 sets x 8-15 reps per leg)
4b. Seated or Standing Calf Raises (3 sets x 10-15 reps)
5. Seated or Lying Hamstring Curls (3 sets x 12-15 reps)